Ian Finnerty AMA: Using Rock Climbing To Strengthen Forearms For BR

Indiana Hoosier and American record-breaking breaststroker Ian Finnerty did an AMA on reddit yesterday, saying he’s used rock climbing as a way to strengthen his forearms for breaststroke.

For those who don’t waste too much time on the internet, “AMA” stands for “Ask Me Anything” and has become a format for direct Q&As between people of interest and fans on the Reddit website. Finnerty did his AMA yesterday on the swimming subreddit, answering a number of key questions on his own training and his future in the sport. You can read the full AMA here, but we’ve republished a handful of Finnerty’s questions and answers below:

Q: What’s your favorite thing to do that works on breastroke? Also how wide would you say your kick is? I can’t really tell by videos

A: Thank you! I think the most beneficial thing for breast stroke that you can do in the water is pulling. I had a big focus pulling with a buoy and paddles this seasons. We will also use bands that restrict the ability to use your legs while we do sets. As far as outside the pool goes, I really enjoy rock climbing as it strengthens forearms. The longer you can go in the race before your forearms fatigue, the better, and I think climbing has really helped in that regard. It also takes my head out of swimming and gives me a hobby so that’s also good!

I’m not really sure how close they are in the race to be exact. But in practice I really try to get my knees within about a foot of each other. The less drag I’m causing to get into the kick power position the better.

Q: Do you do pull breaststroke or just freestyle, I feel breaststroke could be quite akward, how do you overcome the odd body position?

A: I pull both frequently. And the awkward body position thing is just something that is going to happen. Your main focus should just be the upper body and getting that strengthened. A dolphin kick with the legs would be fine and would make it less awkward

Q: Did you ever think you would make it this far? How did you choose Indiana as the school you would swim for? What advice would you give to someone who wants to be at your level one day?

A: I had the goals to make it this far, but no one ever really knows if they will. When visiting schools my number one question was “if I couldn’t swim here, would I still be happy to come to this school?” And indiana fit that perfectly.

The biggest tip I can give is do everything right even when people aren’t looking. Pretend like your coach is there when you’re eating so you eat right, before bed so you get a ton of sleep. Sleep is probably the biggest thing. I try to at least get 9 hours every night.

Q: Hi Ian, Adam Peaty seems to think a large number of his gains in swimming come from the gym, do you also do a lot of strength and conditioning? What one excercise would you say is the most important for swimmers to carry out on dry land?

A: Absolutely. Biggest change this season for me out of the water. I’ve gained about 8lbs of muscle since sophomore year and it’s helped me feel powerful in the water. I think my personal favorite are pull-ups for breast stroke. I do weighted sets of them and I think they are very helpful when it comes to pullouts and general pulling in breast stroke.

Q: Hi Ian first of all congrats on your world record, that was an amazing swim to watch! I’m a breaststroker and have been struggling to drop some time recently. What kind of breaststroke pulling set would you do? Also, what is ur opinion on wall kicks for breaststroke? Are there any stretches you do that also helps your breaststroke especially for your ankles? Because my left ankle is not as flexible as my right and I can feel the difference when I do breaststroke kick. Finally, what is some of your favorite dryland exercises to help your breaststroke? I know these are a lot of questions but it would mean the world to me if you replied!

A: Thanks!

  1. We usually do about 1400 yards of pull in a 6500 practice. One of my favorite little sets is 16x50s drop the tempo from 1-4, 4 times. Starting at 1.3 and ending at 1.0
  2. I’m not sure what you mean by wall kicks. As far as kicking goes, I do a LOT of underwater kick with breast stroke as it helps me get a feel for the water better.
  3. Sitting on the ankles is a big one. When you sit down on the floor. Sit knees on the floor and butt on your ankles.
  4. Pull-ups all day. Weighted or unweighted they are the perfect exercise to help improve pullouts and normal pull on the breast.

Q: Ian, how do you feel about the overall competition level of the Big10? Seems like there isn’t much disparity at the team level, and there hasn’t been for the last ten years (outside of Ohio State winning once). Who do you see as up and comers in the Big10 team/individually? What are some of your goals for the upcoming lcm season? Good luck moving forward mate.

A: I’d argue that the B1G time wise is the most competitive conference in the NCAA. Honestly, I think it’s impossible to tell who the next big powerhouse team will be. Minnesota has looked better and better every year. I think we could see 4 way team races with them michigan, Ohio state, and Indiana. Obviously I’ll want Indiana to win, but competition is good for everyone!

I’m more of a process orientated goal person. So I have no times in mind. However, I’d like to dabble into some freestyle in meters to hopefully improve that in yards. I also want to swim the 200LCM more in hopes that it improves my yards. I’m excited for this summer though!

Q: Hey! Aspiring breastroker here. If you have one, what is your best general tip for breastroke?

A: I personally believe that higher tempo will be the next trend.

Q: Hey Ian. Truly amazing 100 breast. My jaw dropped watching it. You’ll always be remembered for the first 49. Great swimming at Mesa as well. Do you see yourself going all-in on pro swimming after graduating? And if so, how do you think your training will change (if at all) in order to translate your short course success into long course? I know the obvious answer is to swim more meters, but I’m curious if there is anything specific that Ray has you guys do. I always found it interesting how some swimmers just couldn’t make the switch (David Nolan is a great example). Thanks!

A: I think I’ll dabble in the pro scene for a little bit. It’ll all come down to how trials 2020 goes. I think my training will become more focused as a pro. Right now I’m focused on a lot of events for collegiate season. 100/200 free 200IM and 100/200 breast. So I’m doing practices that I wouldn’t be doing as a professional only focused on the 100/200 breast. For example I do distance freestyle training Friday to keep my aerobic base up for all the events I have during a collegiate season.

Q: What are some of your weight room personal bests?

A: 95 DB bench for 6 255 squat for 6 85 lbs pull ups for 6 215 clean for 3

In This Story

Leave a Reply

5 Comment threads
17 Thread replies
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
16 Comment authors
newest oldest most voted
Ol' Longhorn

Surprisingly weak squat numbers, but the 85 lbs pullups are pretty sweet —- Cullen Jones territory.

People said the same thing about Adam Peaty’s squat numbers recently. I wonder if maybe there’s a misunderstanding of what kind of squat numbers are best for breaststroke…



I said that. They’re low. Ian’s even moreso. I’d actually bet that there’s no way he only squats that much, and Peaty is being coy as well.

If he’s only squatting 255, but can bench 180 with dumbells, there’s a big discrepancy there. 180vwith dumbells is close to that Squat number if you swap the dumbells for a barbell.

I’m obviously nowhere near the swimmer Peaty or Finnerty are, but I squat more than Peaty (which I don’t believe) , and about 100 lbs more than Finnerty, for more reps as well!


Maybe depends on how deep they go in the squat!?!

Ol' Longhorn

Peaty’s kick is so narrow it’s much more for him about foot speed in his kick than strength/power (a reason why his breakouts are comparatively horrendous — he get’s nothing from the narrow kick). That’s fine for a 100, but as Lilly King and Peaty, the two elite fast turnover/narrow kickers show, it doesn’t translate to a 200 LCM. Curious what Finnerty’s training buddy Cody Miller does on back squats. Definitely has a wider kick. Or what any of the 100 guys/girls that can also go up to a 200 (Cordes, Yulia, etc.) can do.


My maxes are higher than an NCAA champ and American record holder noice


I feel like swimmers are starting to do rock climbing outside of swimming, Josh prenot and Jacob Pebley also rock climbs…

Ol' Longhorn

Most interesting thing about competitive rock climbing training is that it’s basically USRPT. They can’t go to extreme failure because of the risk of injury. Every rep has to be technically sound, and they keep them rested to the extent they can go all reps with perfect technique.

About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson swam for nearly twenty years. Then, Jared Anderson stopped swimming and started writing about swimming. He's not sick of swimming yet. Swimming might be sick of him, though. Jared was a YMCA and high school swimmer in northern Minnesota, and spent his college years swimming breaststroke and occasionally pretending …

Read More »

Want to take your swimfandom to the next level?

Subscribe to SwimSwam Magazine!